Angel Rosado

Dragons appear throughout medieval folklore. They represent evil that is challenged by heroes and for the most part they are the stories. In Beowulf, the dragon is portrayed as an evil creature that dislikes mankind especially those who dare intrude on its hoard or steal from it. The dragon is very much feared in the story of Beowulf. Like most dragons in Western folklore, in Beowulf, the dragon is depicted as a huge, reptile-like beast with enormous claws and bat-like wings. Most importantly, dragons are often said to have with flames coming out of their mouths, causing major damage to anything that may stand in their way. The dragon in Beowulf has all of these characteristics which put fear and horror into the hearts of many. At the end, however, the dragon meets its doom.

The hoard-guard waited restless until evening came; then the barrow-keeper was in rage: he would requite that precious drinking cup with vengeful fire.” (39) In the context of Beowulf, the dragon’s fury is intense when a stranger enters the dragon’s hoard and escapes with one of the dragon’s cups. The dragon’s reaction is to get revenge. Because one of its precious treasures has been stolen, the dragon decides to burn down the homes of the local villagers. Destroyed in this attack is Beowulf’s home as well: “Because of that the war-king, the lord of the Weather-Geats, devised punishment for him.” (39) When Beowulf becomes aware of the burning of his hall, he decides to take revenge on the dragon and for the last time boasts about how he will seek battle and perform a deed of fame: “In my youth I engaged in many wars. Old guardian of the people, I shall still seek battle, perform a deed of fame, if the evil-doer will come to me out of the earth-hall.” (42)

With the aid of Wiglaf, who is Beowulf’s trusted kinsman, Beowulf defeats the dragon. Beowulf receives a substantial number of wounds in the battle. The final blow, which is described as a cut through the middle of the worm, destroys the dragon for good (45,46): “The king himself then still controlled his senses, drew the battle-knife, biting and war-sharp, that he wore on his mail-shirt: the protector of the Weather-Geats cut the worm through the middle.” (45,46) Unfortunately, Beowulf’s life is taken as a result of his struggle with the dragon, who bites Beowulf in the neck. Beowulf, once a triumphant and strong warrior, is unable to survive his wounds.

According to ancient medieval folklore, dragons are known for their superior strength and magical abilities. Dragons protect their hoard because it is said that they hold vast amounts of wealth there. This wealth consists of coins, gems, jewels, and items with magical abilities and strengths (Holz, Bartusik, Melendez). In Beowulf, the dragon’s hoard is invaded and one of its cups is taken. As a result, the dragon decides to avenge itself on the local villagers and Beowulf. The cup was quite important to the dragon. To add to the dragon’s fury, his hoard was entered as he slept which was to remain a secret place (Holz, Bartusik, Melendez).

The battle between Beowulf and the dragon depicts the strength of man against that of beast. Ego plays a major role in how the dragon and Beowulf both respond when they feel a lack of respect. They both decide to take matters into their own hands, resulting in their deaths. Beowulf and the dragon are destroyed by more than their protection of their homes. Both ultimately die because of their pride.

Works Cited

Donaldson, E. Talbot. Beowulf. Ed. Nicholas Howe. New York: W.W. Norton & Co., 1992.

Holz, Bartusik, Melendez. “About the Dragon”. CSIS.PACE.EDU/GRENDEL. January 28, 2002.